Anna Kendrick will soon lend her charismatic energy to the realm of sci-fi. Although the charming leading lady often involves herself in comedies and dramas that tend to be grounded on Earth, she has boarded a thriller set in space for her next project. And at the helm is a particularly promising relative newcomer.
The Hollywood Reporter has the scoop that Kendrick will star in Stowaway. The film follows a crew bound for Mars who realize “an accidental stowaway” has boarded their spacecraft sometime after takeoff. With limited resources on board and no way to return to Earth before completing their mission, all crew members except for Kendrick’s character — the ship’s medical researcher — are more than ready to dispose of the extra passenger. No matter the cost.
This starkly grim tale will be the sophomore effort of YouTuber turned acclaimed filmmaker Joe Penna, who is set to direct from a screenplay that he co-wrote with Ryan Morrison. Both of them had previously collaborated on Penna’s debut feature Arctic. The Mads Mikkelsen survival thriller premiered at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival to positive reviews and was even in competition for the Camera d’Or. Production house XYZ Films — which worked on Arctic, too — will produce and sell the international rights to Stowaway, marking another re-team with Penna and Morrison.
Penna initially rose to fame during the early years of YouTube as MysteryGuitarMan, a channel that he still maintains to this day consisting of short films, stop-motion animation, and music. A particular milestone of Penna’s internet career came with Guitar: Impossible (watch below). In 2010, the video was selected to screen at the Guggenheim Museum in partnership with the web video platform to showcase the blossoming influence of new media formats.
But even prior to Guitar: Impossible, Penna had already begun a transition to commercial directing. He notably helmed a stop-motion advertisement for comedy internet entertainers Rhett and Link titled “T-Shirt War,” and the spot got plenty of attention. Penna went on to create promotional materials for companies like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. After the Guggenheim gig, his focus shifted considerably to television, where he crafted the original interactive thriller Meridian as well as hosted Fox’s Xploration Earth 2050. The latter, a technology-based show, received eight Daytime Emmy Award nominations.
These are fantastic achievements on Penna’s part, but getting a film star of Mads Mikkelsen’s caliber to play the lead in your debut feature-length project is still a considerable feat for any first-time director. According to an interview by FSR’s own Matt Hoffman, Mikkelsen’s Hannibal producer Martha de Laurentiis worked behind the scenes on Arctic and encouraged the actor to make the film’s script a priority. That turned out to be a smart choice for Mikkelsen, anyway. Early buzz for the film celebrates its character-driven shrewdness and thrills regardless of a typical narrative backdrop.
Pair that with Kendrick’s own likability and alluring flair and Stowaway just keeps sounding like a real treat. For her part, Kendrick isn’t a total stranger to thrillers, having actually gotten her very first leading role in the mystery movie Elsewhere. More than anything, this film displays that she is more than her comedic prowess; Kendrick can really do gritty. Playing a teen girl looking into the disappearance of her best friend, her performance is the one faultless thing about Elsewhere‘s otherwise generic premise and execution.
Most recently, Kendrick starred in Paul Feig’s quirky comedy-thriller A Simple Favor and comparatively comes full circle with this cinematic venture. She now portrays a woman working to unravel the conundrum of her mysterious missing companion as depicted by Blake Lively. The role is more tongue-in-cheek, making full use of Kendrick’s aptitude for hilarity in conjunction with the narrative’s suspenseful elements to great results.
Other films from the thriller genre that can be found on Kendrick’s docket include Robert Redford’s The Company You Keep and Gavin O’Connor’s The Accountant. Unfortunately, although she is absolutely electric, she is woefully underused in both (not that the latter is particularly good anyway).
Kendrick ought to get more roles that aren’t so thankless. She isn’t an Oscar-nominated actress for nothing. The film responsible for that recognition, Up in the Air, along with 50/50, Drinking Buddies, and The Last Five Years are just some highlights demonstrating the kind of quiet authenticity and sensitivity Kendrick can embody on screen. But she has such a powerful bombastic personality that she can drive a plot forward and hold a movie on her shoulders, as evidenced in Pitch Perfect. On the flip side, she simply steals the whole show in mixed bags like Into the Woods.
I can’t wait to see how Kendrick delivers her trademark earnestness to Stowaway, because it already sounds like a film that desperately needs her as the stabilizing voice of reason. Moreover, while Penna may only have one feature in his filmography, he proves to be consistently achieving bigger and better things. Stowaway could very well be one of them.